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What You Need to Know about the Russia’s Air/Space Defense System Concept

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What You Need to Know about the Russia's Air/Space Defense System Concept

Russia has merged several branches of its military into the Aerospace Forces (VKO). The new branch will include the nation’s air force, air defense, anti-missile and space forces. On August 3, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that it opens “the optimal way of improving the system of the nation’s aerospace defense.” But what is the VKO? Which tasks do they solve and how? SouthFront.org offers the aricle answering the questions. The article was intitially publsihed in 2008, two years after confirming the Air/Space Defense Concept in 2006. Probably, it is the most detalied description of the reasons of creation, aims and apporaches of the Russian VKO in open access.

This article originally apeared at Vko.ru, translated from Russian by J.Hawk for SouthFront

Implementing the program laid out below would allow Russia to establish a layered anti-air and anti-missile defense system by 2020 and later a unified aerospace defense system.

The Air/Space Defense Concept confirmed on 5 April 2006 by the President of the Russian Federation determines the objective, direction, and priorities in its establishment. However, the pages of mass media and actual military development practices reflect a variety of approaches which are not always consistent with the conceptual document. Sometimes it has a negative influence on the quality and speed of establishing our country’s aerospace defense system (VKO).

The ideology underlying the need to establish such a system and the process of forming it was developed by Air Defense Forces (PVO) military scientists. The Air Forces (VVS) became the successor to PVO in 1997, ensuring the theory’s further development and establishing practices for creating the system’s components and also ensuring the concept’s adoption with the General Staff’s and MOD’s active support.

The current article represents a comprehensive overview at the Russian Federation efforts to create VKO under the conditions of the continuing Armed Forces reforms at their current phase.

The air/space defense, as a set of national and military measures, operations, and combat operations is being organized and implemented in order to ensure timely warning against air and space attack, its defeat, as well as the defense of national strategic sites, the Armed Forces, and the population from air and space attack.

From the military point of view, achieving these objectives can be ensured by accomplishing three main operational tasks:

– Continuous monitoring of airspace and outer space and of the adversary’s air/space strike systems, timely discovery of air/space attack preparations and warning the country’s highest political and military leadership;

– repelling enemy air/space strike assets and defending Armed Forces groupings, industrial regions, administrative-political centers, and population from such strikes;

– defeating enemy air/space strike assets, their command and control systems in their land bases, at sea, in the air, and in outer space.

The first operational task is achieved through organizing and sustaining VKO combat alert in peacetime. The current VKO alert force structure is shown on figure 2. The core of alert forces are the General Staff reconnaissance assets, fighter aviation, air defense missile and radiotechnical forces, air- and land-based EW assets of the VVS, and also units of the missile/space defense assets of Space Forces. VVS Main Command is the unified command structure responsible for organizing and maintaining VKO combat alert, and the PVO Main Command Point is their central command post. Space Forces (KV) assets are used to monitor the outer space and provide ICBM and SLBM strike warnings.

The second task–protecting key sites and defending the population from air and space attack–requires solving two important problems. The first is establishing a list of key sites under VKO protection in peacetime and wartime, and the second is perfecting its organizational system.

Key site VKO requires considerable forces and currently cannot be fully ensured due to economic considerations. Therefore the key site list ought to include a small number of critical sites whose functioning ensures the defensive system’s strategic stability and the country’s ability to continue waging combat operations.  Considering their importance, they ought to be defended even during peacetime. VKO assets and capabilities ought to be appropriately distributed to protect critical sites, depending on enemy ability to strike them.

Parrying the enemy ICBM and SLBM threat ought to be accomplished mainly using Space Forces assets using monitoring, launch early warning, and ABM systems. The existing ABM and aerospace assets ought to be reinforced by future EW systems in order to suppress enemy carrier-based aviation, future mobile mobile anti-missile systems, and weapons using new physical principles [directed energy weapons] which would allow effective suppression of the US global ABM system on land, air, and in outer space.

Enemy’s future deployment of hypersonic missiles should be compensated by limited but sufficient number of modernized S-400 long range anti-air and anti-missile systems. Tactical and operational ballistic missile attacks can be thwarted by Favorit-modernized S-300PM and Buk systems, and future all-aspect land- and sea-based air defense missile systems.

Air- and missile defense effectiveness should be enhanced by their integration using automated and in some cases automatic ABM and air-defense command and control systems.  The field experiments conducted in 2007-2009 not only confirmed the technical feasibility of such “functional integration” but proved their effectiveness when defending against non-strategic ballistic missiles.

Mass use of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) must be counteracted by mobile air defense. It should be based on future all-aspect medium-range SAMs, gun-missile systems like the Pantsyr, and specialized PGM active-passive defensive systems.

We assume this approach will be implemented in all current and future aeromissile defense groupings.

Aeromissile defense groupings which have mobile ABMs and medium- and long-range SAMs, and anti-PGM systems can be deployed to cover critically important sites and large area sites such as naval bases or land-mobile ICBM patrol areas. They will have a high density of fire against non-strategic ballistic missiles, manned and unmanned aerial objects, cruise- and aircraft-launched missiles of all speeds and at all altitudes, and a high degree ECM resistance.

What You Need to Know about the Russia's Air/Space Defense System Concept

Using future land- and air-based ECM systems as part of air/missile defense groupings will greatly increase (in some cases by 25-30%) increase the ability to defend key sites by suppressing onboard electronics of enemy reconnaissance and strike systems, communication channels, data links, C4I systems, land-based air defenses, and also enemy air battle command centers.

The air/space asset fire defeat system that is being established on land, at sea, and in the air should and will be able to fulfill the mission of critical site protection.

The second and third VKO operational task is accomplished through an integrated application of all relevant assets of Russian Armed Forces and, under certain conditions, of the CIS unified air defense system. These assets should be able to ensure cover against air and space attack and guarantee the destruction of enemy critical sites. The leading role in accomplishing these tasks is assumed by VVS defensive and strike components, as well as the Navy strike assets.

The integrated and (depending on circumstances) simultaneous or sequential use of strike and defensive assets as part of VKO under centralized control will determine the overall success of combat operations. Moreover, our strike assets can weaken enemy air/space strike assets sufficiently to raise air/space defense effectiveness by 50%.


The results of many years of research by leading MOD scientific and research institutions and practical PVO and VVS experience indicate that the process of reforming RF Armed Forces ought to include a range of practical steps to establish the country’s VKO.

Relevant measures ought to compensate for the enemy strike assets’ ability to operate from various directions against the entire range of targets on RF territory, and fulfill the three most important operational missions indicated above.

Therefore it is necessary to ensure:
–the military and state leadership is informed about the start of attack.

–centralized command and control, automated task assignment among zones of responsibility when repelling ballistic missile strikes (ICBM, SLBMs, operational and tactical missiles), destroying hypersonic vehicles and other aerial targets.

–the optimal distribution of assets among the zones of responsibility.

Moreover, it is necessary to ensure coordination of Ground Forces and VKO operations with combat aviation, including:
–long-range and frontline bombers attacking enemy targets in enemy’s operational and strategic depth.
–tactical fighters destroying C3I and air defense systems, cruise missiles, manned and unmanned aircraft in the air and on land.
–specialized airborne ECM systems suppressing enemy command, navigation, and communications systems.
–land- and air-based directed energy weapons ensuring the necessary effectiveness of RF strategic nuclear retaliatory strikes.

These tasks must be addressed in a systemic manner through centralized command and coordination of forces in real time.

1. VKO should be designed by through a system of zones of responsibility.

In view of the future shape of the Armed Forces announced by the Minister of Defense and General Staff Chief, there should be several VKO zones. Their borders should be defined in reference to the current VVS/PVO Command zones, and be compatible with the borders of the unified strategic command that are being established.

The defense of Moscow and of the sites and population of the Central Industrial Region requires a separate VKO zone along the borders of the Operational-Strategic Space Forces Command. It should be developed as the lead VKO sector, and the tactical and organizational approaches developed there should be adopted when establishing other regional VKO zones.

Coastal areas should have maritime VKO zones which can be established by naval PVO forces and ships equipped with future multi-role radars capable of detecting ballistic targets and armed with unified air/missile defense systems.

2. The reconnaissance and early warning system should be deployed in depth (figure 7):

–The first (operational-strategic) echelon based on space and land-based missile early warning systems and General Staff electronic reconnaissance with range of up to 9 thousand km.

–the second (operational) echelon based on land-based missile early warning systems, over-the-horizon radars, high-resolution long range air warning radars, and General Staff electronic reconnaissance systems with ranges of up to 4500km;–the third (tactical) echelon based on air and land-based radar and electronic reconnaissance systems of the General Staff, VVS, troop PVO, VMF with ranges of 600km or more. Tactical reconnaissance systems are consolidated within the federal reconnaissance and air space control system into a unified automated radar system.The echeloned deployment will ensure the ability to reliably detect all existing and future air/space strike assets.The systems development ought to follow these main priorities.

Missile attack early warning: establish a unified detection and control space system. It will include spacecraft on high elliptical and geostationary orbits with improved ability to detect ICBM and SLBM launches and the capability of detecting non-strategic missiles. The second main priority is the modernization of existing systems and phased deployment of new highly reliable radars in order to ensure radar coverage integrity, refusal to rely on radars outside of Russia, and establishing a national missile attack warning zone. The third priority should be the development of specialized radar systems for long-range detection of ballistic targets within VVS radio-technical forces and of detecting air/missile defense systems.

Monitoring the state and activity of foreign aviation forces: the presence and improvement of over-the-horizon (OTH) radar systems in the European strategic region, and establishing and deploying similar systems in the East-Asian and Central-Asian Strategic Regions. This task can be accomplished in the world ocean by aerial reconnaissance and long-range aviation patrols.

Airspace control and monitoring: the existence of short, medium, and high-altitude radars, close cooperation between VVS unit HQs with zone air traffic control and federal reconnaissance and airspace control systems.

Reconnaissance, detection of aerial targets, and target designation for active PVO systems: having a fleet of ECM-resistant radars on combat alert for low, medium, and high altitudes.

Reconnaissance and detection of aerial and ballistic targets and target designation for active PVO systems: having a fleet of high-resolution specialized surveillance and non-strategic ballistic missile detection Nebo-M, Protivnik-G radars, and the development of future means of detecting aerial and ballistic targets.

3. The VKO troop command system ought to be deployed on the basis of integrated  aviation and air/missile defense C3I systems within the scope of responsibility of unified strategic commands.

The automated VVS command system should serve as the foundation of that system, since it already today has the best ability to handle information, support, and command tasks for both defensive and offensive operations. That system can simultaneously direct aviation operations to defeat cruise missile strikes, manned and unmanned aircraft, destroying aircraft at their bases, fire and electronic suppression of radar systems, command posts and communications centers, and other critically important enemy sites.

The command system’s development ought to ensure centralized control of all forces involved in VKOmissions from the VVS central command post, provide additional equipment in order to enable it to control Space Forces assets and to synchronize the automated systems of the Space Forces command posts, VVS and PVO commands, and Space Forces brigades in order to enable coordination and target designation between VVS, Ground Forces, and VMF anti-air/missile units and the SPRN (ballistic missile early warning system) HQ when dealing with non-strategic missile strikes.

In order to ensure centralized automated troop command and control which the General Staff assigned to the ADS mission, deploy an operational command center for air/space defense on the basis of the VVS Central HW. Similar command centers and ABM planning entities ought to be included into the structure of VVS and PVO commands and of the unified strategic commands, and VVS, Ground Forces, and Navy air defense regiments with ABM capabilities should receive anti-missile groups with structured tactical and special training in accordance with unified combat training regimen.

4. Place the responsibility for establishing and developing the VKO on a specific official, namely VVS Commanding Officer. This is a natural choice given the state of development of our armed forces and can cause no doubts with any right-thinking person who knows their history. VVS Commander has the legal responsibility to develop VKO and carry out the air defense mission using all alert forces of the RF Armed Forces.

In practical terms, PVO forces are already today the foundation of the country’s VKO and they are able to effectively defeat all types of air/space strike assets and can acquire the ability to defeat cruise missiles and carrier-based aircraft.

Missile/Space Defense (RKO) units which are part of Space Forces and which can detect and defeat a limited number of ICBM and SLBM warheads, until 1997 have been developing jointly with PVO forces. After 1997 RKO development lost its focus on maintaining integration within the country’s unified VKO. At first they were viewed as a means of improving the effectiveness of the Strategic Rocket Forces and in the future, after merging with the Space Forces, as a basis for waging “star wars.”

In order to effectively implement the tasks defined by the VKO Concept for the period of up to 2016 and beyond that date, it is necessary to carry out the following by the end of 2010:

1. Establish VKO Command as an agency, and part of the General Staff command structure, in order to accomplish the following:
–organization and leadership for creating and developing the national VKO.
–organization and direction of VKO combat alert using designated forces and assets from various branches of the Armed Forces, as well as forces and assets which are not part of various branches of the Armed Forces.
–organization and direction of operational preparation of command structures to prepare them for fulfilling the VKO mission.
–organization of training (planning) and actual battle management of a strategic aerospace operation.

VVS Commanding Officer is to assume the leadership of the VKO Command.

VVS Commanding Officer should be granted the title of VKO Commanding Officer.

VKO Command should be form relying on VVS Main Staff officers with General Staff, as well as VMF, Space Forces, and Ground Forces Main Staff  officer participation.
VKO Command ought to be located within the VVS Main HQ infrastructure to make the best use of it and the highly effective control system.

2. Operational troop leadership of units designated for the aerospace defense mission should be exercised by deploying the VKO Operational Center on the basis of VVS Main HQ.

3. Subordinate SPRN and ABM assets, including the ABM Division which is currently part of Space Forces, to VKO Command.

These measures will fully correspond to the decisions made in 2005 by the President of the Russian Federation on perfecting the military structures of the Russian Federation, and to the general concept of perfecting military direction agencies and optimally distributing operational and administrative functions within the Armed Forces, which is being implemented by RF MOD,

The proposed measures are quite simple to implement and do not require a great deal of time or resources, nor a thorough overhaul of the existing and still effective national air defense system. Preserving both operational (for the VKO Command) and administrative (for VVS Main Command) functions in the hands of VVS Commanding Officer is consistent with the principle of unity of operational command and administrative direction which is adhered to when creating new military districts and unified strategic commands. Moreover, there is no need to make changes to the normative or legal systems of the Russian Federation concerning the responsibility for air defense and the protection of Russia’s state border in outer space.

These proposals are also fully consistent with world practice in the realm of administrative and operational responsibilities.

Thus, for example, the commanding officer of NATO’s AFNORTH air forces simultaneously fills the post of AFNORTH commander’s assistant for airpower matters. In addition, he plays the role of the air defense commander and the chief of the regional air/space monitoring system within the AFNORTH zone of responsibility. The US NORAD commander is simultaneously the commander of the North American unified command, and is subordinated to the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Staff of Canada’s national defense.

Therefore the proposed VKO organization and command structure for forces engaged in the air/space defense mission in both peacetime and wartime:

–is consistent with RF military and political leadership decisions on improving the national military organization;

–places personal responsibility on VVS Commanding Officer for establishing and developing the national VKO system as well as mission fulfillment by VKO-designated forces;

–creates the necessary conditions for implementing the key provisions for creating the national VKO system (unity of responsibility for organizing and ensuring effectiveness of forces assigned to the VKO mission, their coordinated employment, and rational balance between centralized direction and decentralized battle command);

–allows the concentration of main forces and assets used to fulfill all operational VKO missions in one branch of the Armed Forces under the leadership of a single official;

What You Need to Know about the Russia's Air/Space Defense System Concept

–it permits unified military-technical policy and its systematic development, as well as the perfection of both forms and means of their application in order to improve the level of mission accomplishment;

–it will allow the established of echeloned, by altitude and by depth, strategic air/space defense of the city of Moscow, the central industrial region, and critical key sites and population within the VKO unified strategic command and VVS and PVO commands on the entire territory of the country.

–it will allow systematic use of all forces and assets of the VKO in accordance with a unified operational concept and plan, with centralized control and delineation of PVO (VKO) planning and command authority over forces and assets designated for the VKO mission on strategic, operational-strategic, and operational levels;

–it will not require a revision of the existing normative and legal acts of the Russian Federation or modifying existing intergovernmental agreements concerning the functioning of the CIS unified air defense system.

–it will not require the creation of additional command posts in order to direct PVO, ABM, and aviation forces and assets (until the unified VKO C3I system is created, the VKO command post may be “distributed”, as the general VKO direction and command as well the direct PVO command may be implemented by the VKO Operational Center, while the SPRN and strategic ABM direct command may be exercised from the SPRN command post);

–it will not require additional funds to develop the VVS Main Command and to locate the VKO Command, only a slight reinforcement (20-30 individuals).

Implementing these proposals will allow Russia to create by 2020, if need be also over the territory of its allies, an echeloned air/missile defense system and later a unified aerospace defense system and ensure its effective future development.

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Brenda Hess

I live in California. And not knowing what’s happening is scary. I just know that I wish I wasn’t here now.

Dr. Ronald Cutburth

Brenda move away from California. That is a dangerous place without war in Russia. Notice the strategic map is caused by NATO making threatening moves against Russia. There have been no changes about Russia needing to plan ways to defend itself except now with advanced technology. Insane tyrants of all types try to make a name for themselves by regenerating new threats against Russia.

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